The irony is that I have made a commitment (or resolution) to limit my social media access to no more than two hours a week. I would probably eliminate it altogether except I still need to be on it for work related purposes (such as posting stories to social media sites) as well as the occasional update for family and friends. This is a big experiment to see how it affects me on a couple levels.
First, I estimate that I have been spending well over two hours a day just scrolling and trolling my Facebook and Twitter feeds. Over the last 10 years, that probably adds up to months of my life lost to staring at a computer screen that could have been spent being productive in the real world or spending time with my family. If I spent half the time I wasted on social media with my children I’d be twice the dad I am today.
I plan to use that reclaimed time to be more productive at work and to be more involved with my wife and children. I will use some of that time to work on my book project that I’ve been dragging my heels on for the last five years. No more excuses!
Secondly, I want to see how it affects me physically and psychologically. The physical part should be simple. Any time I’m not planted in front of a computer I can be on my feet getting exercise and burning calories. The psychological part will take a little more study. Without social media I won’t be exposing myself to the negative and divisive diatribe that is permeating our culture today. Removing all that negativity will open me to more positive things in life.
More importantly, I won’t be allowing my mind to devolve into mental mush from hours of endless scrolling. I’ll be free to be more creative in my projects. I also hope to clear up the brain fog that I’ve been struggling with for the last several years. I figure using my brain rather than filling it with useless junk will help bring more clarity and purpose.
To be sure there are a lot of things I enjoy about social media that I will miss. There is a lot of humor in my Facebook feed that will suddenly be gone from my life. I will miss the connections with friends and family scattered across the country and other parts of the world. That will be a huge adjustment, but I think I’ll survive. After all, I managed to live the first 40 or so years of my life without social media.
In order to achieve my goal, I deleted all social media apps from my phone. I’ve also removed all the social media tabs from the web browsers on my computers. That eliminates a lot of temptation. On the other hand, it is also creating some serious withdrawal symptoms. At the time of this writing I’m just one day into this grand experiment and I find that I’m feeling a little lost and unsettled without those quick peeks at Facebook or Twitter. Those times when I’d habitually click on my Facebook app are now filled with awkward moments of sitting there trying to figure out what I should be doing.
The first thing I did was start cleaning and reorganizing my office at work. It had become really cluttered and messy. I am now discovering things that I had shoved aside that actually need my attention. Hopefully that will lead to more stories getting done. It also led me to look back at old editions of the newspaper and realizing just how much I have accomplished in a short time. None of those things happened while I was scrolling through social media. It all happened while I was out in the community being involved and engaging in life. I need more of that. We all need more of that!
One of the things I’m keeping in the back of my mind is how counter-intuitive this move is for a journalist. Social media allows journalists to be connected to people and events in real time and in ways much broader than we had ever imagined in the pre-Internet dark ages. Not having that access on a regular basis is sure to have some drawbacks. There will be a lot of things I miss. At the same time, I hope I’m so much more engaged in what’s really going on that I can do a better and more thorough job for our readers.
More importantly, I hope it makes me a better person. That is the underlying objective of this goal. When the time comes and my obituary is written, I hope it is filled with numerous accomplishments and that my funeral is attended by an overflowing crowd. I don’t want the latter half of my life to be noted for likes, shares and re-tweets to a bunch of people that I used to know in the first half of my life.
On a closing note, I find it refreshing that I will now be devoting more of my time and resources to my wife and children and not throwing it away on the Mark Zuckerbergs of this world. I find that to be very empowering indeed!